Images, Scandal, and Communication Strategies of the Clinton Presidency

Images, Scandal, and Communication Strategies of the Clinton Presidency

Images, Scandal, and Communication Strategies of the Clinton Presidency

Images, Scandal, and Communication Strategies of the Clinton Presidency

Excerpt

In 1992, candidate Bill Clinton asked the American people to choose “change” or “more of the same.” They voted for change. When the voters elected a Republican majority in 1994, Clinton moved in response. He “triangulated,” found a “dynamic center,” and asked the American people to follow him across “the bridge to the twenty-first century.”

Themes of movement and change in American political discourse are nothing new, nor are they unique to the Clinton presidency. A sense of forward movement, progress, invention, and reinvention is part of the American political lexicon. What is remarkable is the degree to which movement and change characterized the Clinton presidency. He literally traveled more than previous presidents, making 330 domestic appearances during his first term in office (Ragsdale, 1998, 179), choosing to leave Washington more frequently than any other modern president. He moved presidential communication to new media outlets and formats, attempting to bypass the national press corps and to create new lines of communication with the American people. He shifted politically—from the centrist position of a New Democrat toward the Left and back to the center. He transformed his physical image multiple times over the course of eight years. He was elected as a man of the people who jogged through Washington in mismatched running clothes. Over time, he consciously worked to achieve a presidential bearing and adopted a dark blue suit as standard attire. He adapted rhetorically, altering his argument, style, and language choice for the audience and situation at hand. When faced with White-

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